Biodiversity Survey of the Cape

A NASA Biodiversity field program in the Greater Cape Floristic Region of South Africa

Project Overview

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is preparing to conduct its first Biodiversity field program incorporating airborne imaging spectroscopy, lidar, and field observations across South Africa’s Greater Cape Floristic Region (GCFR) including surrounding coastal and marine environments. The GCFR contains two Global Biodiversity Hotspots​ with the richest temperate flora and the third-highest marine endemism in the world. The field campaign includes collection of new hyperspectral data ranging from UV to thermal wavelengths acquired by PRISM, AVIRIS-NG, and HyTES spectrometers combined with the LVIS laser altimeter aboard the NASA GIII and GV aircraft. See here for more information about the technology.

These remotely sensed data will be combined with existing and new observations of the spatial distribution of species, ecosystems, and their traits to enable high-resolution mapping of biodiversity, functional traits, and three-dimensional structure across environmental gradients and times-since-disturbance.

The program is organized around three major themes aimed at understanding:

  1. the distribution and abundance of biodiversity,

  2. the role of biodiversity in ecosystem function, and

  3. the impacts of biodiversity change on ecosystem services.

This focus represents an important paradigm shift from previous NASA field programs, which were primarily biogeochemical, toward an approach for measuring and understanding functional, phylogenetic, and taxonomic biological diversity as key components of ecosystem function. Visit the Team Page to learn more. Local partners include the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) and the South African National Space Agency (SANSA).

Video Overview

Watch this 12-minute overview of the project from the 2020 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (Talk #B070-03)

Diagram illustrating the ecological processes to be examined in the field program. Figure reproduced with permission of Oxford University Press.